Boston Irish new Div I champs
Brian Lowe
June 1, 2003

Two-time defending champions San Mateo have been knocked off their perch by the Boston Irish Wolfhounds in the final of the USA Rugby Division I national clubs championships in Pittsburgh. The Wolfhounds won their first ever national title with a hard fought 14-5 decision.

San Mateo went into the Final Four weekend odds on favorites to make it a three-peat, but the club from the San Francisco Bay Area didn't anticipate the ferocious competition provided by the beantowners. San Mateo was led by former US Eagle Vaea Anitoni, who was talked out of retirement to help guide the team's new, young recruits.

Boston Irish opened up the first half full of vigor and dominated most of the first 40 minutes to go to the main break with a handy 14-0 lead. The Wolfhounds' points came from a try by Ed Kos and three penalty goals to David Williams.

The second stanza produced much of the same kind of rugby as had the first, with back and forth attack matched by stoic defense. San Mateo registered the only score of the half when Josese Savali went in for an unconverted try. Boston's David Williams was voted the Division I MVP.

In the men's Second Division final, southern California club Riverside was too good for their Arizona neighbors the Tempe Old Devils, winning the final 41-15.

The Killer Bees did most of the damage in the first half by running in five tries to jump out to a commanding 36-0 lead by halftime. Try-scorers were Inia Suka, Andrew Osborne (2) and Dewane Sauni (2), while ex-captain Ashley Pengelly was good on four conversions and a penalty goal.

Tempe fought back in the second period scoring three unconverted tries, two by Trevor Harrison and one to Fitu Pauga, but it was too little too late and Riverside clinched their first national title. Riverside's George Lasike won Second Division MVP honors.

It's a remarkable comeback for the club based in the Inland Empire east of Los Angeles. Riverside dropped down to Division II this year after a very disappointing run in the 2002 Southern California First Division. This national clubs victory undoubtedly will propel them back into the top echelons in 2004.

Reno of Nevada won the men's Division III title beating Clinton Muddy River 28-10. And in the women's division, Berkeley made it seven national crowns in a row with a comprehensive 36-8 victory over Minnesota.

Saturday's Final Four results:

Div I
San Mateo 27 - Chicago Griffins 21
Boston Irish Wolfhounds 10 - Worcester 8

Div II
Riverside 30 - Boca Raton 25
Tempe 17 - Chicago Westside Condors 16

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